Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Author: kateg (Page 1 of 23)

Quick trip to the Algarve, Portugal

We just had a few days but decided to have a quick visit to a new country. We drove in from Spain and stopped just short of the border in Huelva to visit the Christopher Columbus museum complete with replicas of the ships. It was really interesting reading about the explorer through the eyes of the Spanish after hearing the US history so often.

We travelled along a very good highway to the house we had rented in a smaller town called Olhao which was close to Faro. Olhao is a smaller fishing town with amazing fish and produce markets. We had an incredible old house with high ceilings and beautiful historical accents. Unfortunately it had not been updated to include heating and so it was COLD. We layered outfits and had space heaters in one room but still struggled a bit.

The food was decent and if we had longer, the markets would have provided some goodies for meals. Wine was CHEAP and good. Some positives. Not sure I’d race back to the Algarve but I would certainly visit other places in the country.

Back to Andalusia

I had a conference to attend in Seville so we flew to Malaga and drove up to Cordoba for a few days first. We all fell in love with this amazing city. It’s just large enough to be walkable but filled with heritage sites and narrow alleys and delicious restaurants. Charlotte also went to a wonderful riding stable a couple of times which of course was a hit.

The mosque with a cathedral inside of it is one of the most incredible historic sites I’ve visited. Really encourage anyone to go to Cordoba and visit this. It was memorable.

From Cordoba we drove to Seville where we had a lovely apartment right in the pedestrian area of the city. We could walk to everything (although Seville is a large city so needs to be done over plenty of days). Having spent time there the year before it was nice to show Grandma places we knew and discover new spots.

View from our apartment

A trip south to Jerez was fun as Max is learning to make mead so interested in the sherry processing. Then a drive back up to the village we stayed in for 3 months the year before – Jimena de la Frontera and back to Malaga. Short trip but lovely.

South of France: Pouzols

We had yet another great house swap in the small town of Pouzols which is about 25 minutes outside of Montpelier. The house was a modern build inside an old walled garden. We had lovely places to wander and old buildings around us to look at and yet all modern conveniences. Plus cats – lots of them which was neat.

Grandma enjoyed the garden

There wasn’t much to do or any cafes in the village but we found plenty of towns around us and it was a short drive to the Mediterranean for food and views. The weather was just right for sitting outside and eating but the pool was closed up and it got cold quite quickly at night.

We found so many neat spots around us to visit. Highlights included Uzes, Saint Guilhem-le-Desert, Bouzigues, and of course Pont du Gard aqueduct which is an incredible Roman ruin built about 40-60 CE.

We ate happily too. Oysters and bouillabaisse, cheeses and market goodies, plus incredible Moroccan tagine.

Interested in house swapping and earning points from the site?

If you would like to sign up here is a link that gets both of us some extra guest points just to get you started:


Stratford Upon Avon Again

I realized that we would be leaving the Lake District and driving south to Gatwick in order to fly to France and this would be over my birthday. So, I managed to get tickets at the Royal Shakespeare theater again and we stayed in the lovely old Mercure hotel nearby.

Math class still happens on mom’s birthday and from a 13th Century hotel

We ate dinner at the restaurant there – Marco Pierre White Italian place (yum) and then walked down to the theater to see the show King John.

It was really a fun one with lots of heavy themes and even a good fight. I was glad I’d read the synopsis before as it got a tad confusing (what Shakespearian play doesn’t) and it was one I’d not had to read in school before. We all enjoyed it a lot and it was perfect birthday celebration!

Food fight clean up

The next days we enjoyed lazy breakfasts and boat rides on the Avon. Plus shopping of course.

I really like the city and Charlotte enjoyed it even more as we’ve been watching a fun detective show called Shakespeare and Hathaway set there!

Lake District in the UK: Keswick

We decided to spend some time in the Lake District in the UK for fall (Florida being just too hot to feel autumnal) and take Grandma along. We again used house swapping points as this is quite a pricey area to stay in. We had a great house just off the main street of Keswick shops and restaurants and could walk the entire town.

It reminded us a lot of Colorado in many ways as we were just about the only people not wearing high tech walking and hiking shoes and outfits. We had no fancy walking sticks or even a dog (Darwin stayed home this time) as did just about every person in the Lakes area! Still we enjoyed gentle walks and boat rides on various lakes in the area.

We also headed north to Hadrian’s Wall and then into Scotland briefly.

It was lovely weather overall and just a little chilly on the boats but nothing horrible. We did have to wrap up from the rain and Charlotte found a great riding school where thankfully we could watch her from the car as it was raining quite heavily (they battled on regardless).

It’s another incredibly beautiful spot in the UK. Very well worth a visit in any season.

If you would like to sign up here is a link that gets both of us some extra guest points just to get you started:


Road trip USA: Colorado

We had another great house swap with people from Vail, Colorado so drove from Chicago out there (saw more corn than I ever need to again). It was a nice condo and certainly is a beautiful area. The three older boys and I lived in Colorado Springs back in mid 90s so it was nice to go back and see old spots.

House swapping really is a great system and we have stayed in some lovely places around the world for free! If you would like to sign up here is a link that gets both of us some extra guest points just to get you started:


One day we drove up to Leadville and took the old train trip. Darwin really enjoyed it too! And Leadville is lovely and much more old-style and characteristic than Vail I have to say. Not sure I could handle the extreme snow or cold as it’s 10,000 feet and we were told gets cut off easily. But still lovely in summer.

In Vail the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are lovely to wander around and free! There are lots of shows in the amphitheater there but we didn’t manage to time it well to see any.

Another day had us driving to the Rocky Mountain Park and taking the Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake. It’s an elevation of 11,500 foot so be prepared for dizziness at the top!

In Estes Park I was disappointed to not recognize anything due to such growth nor did we see any of the elk that used to wander around the town. Maybe it was too early in the year but I was also surprised to not see any real snow on the Trail Ridge Road. Back in the 90s there was loads that had lasted all summer long. Global warming?

Another sad thing was the large areas of dead trees due to the mountain pine beetle infestation. They are battling it in the park but wow there were acres and acres of dead trees.

Despite all of this it is still an absolutely beautiful place to visit. The landscapes in Colorado change so rapidly that a drive is never boring!

Road Trip USA: Chicago

We spent a few weeks this summer driving from Florida to Tennessee where were started renovations of our Knoxville house. It was great to visit the old spots up in the Smokies and play with my grandson who is living there now.

Then we took off and drove up to Chicago to visit Ben and his lovely girlfriend who are living there to attend DePaul University for graduate school. We did the various iconic spots but particularly enjoyed the Field Museum. So much to see that we must go back and also to hit up the other museums that we didn’t have time for!

It was fun riding the trains and wandering city streets again. Oh and going to Eataly which is a large Italian food market and restaurants (yum). We had lots of good pizza of course!

Another great spot was the Morton Arboretum which is a little way out of the city but well worth the drive. Beautiful walks and fun searching for the huge trolls hidden around the park.

So lovely to have our own tour guides as well!

San Francisco

Having not been in CA for awhile we also chose to spend a week in San Francisco in conjunction with our trip to Hawaii. We used our house swapping site (Home Exchange) and stayed in an amazing house in Bernal Heights. The owner is a chef and so the kitchen was just amazing plus it was filled with incredible antiques as well as modern pieces. I was glad not to have small children or dogs with me though!

We used our guest points from having people stay in our home when we weren’t there so this was not a direct swap. It really is a great system and we have stayed in some lovely places around the world for free! If you would like to sign up here is a link that gets both of us some extra guest points just to get you started:


Charlotte now says SF is her favorite city as we had such a great trip. Some highlights included China Town, Japan Town, Pier 39 (stinky but fun sea lions), Ferry Building Market, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the amazing California Academy of Sciences Museum. We found the best food in the Ferry Building which really is a foodie lovers go-to-spot.

Oh and book stores! Kinokuniya is an old fave from Dubai, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur and then there is City Lights – iconic place in so many ways.

Our days were spent out sightseeing and then we picked up great produce and offerings at the Bernal markets so were able to make yummy meals in that chef’s kitchen which was fun. Great trip and I’m so grateful that we saved all that money on housing!

Hawaii: Big Island

Diamond Head on the way out of Oahu

A short and easy flight took us over the Big Island for volcanoes and rural life. We had a lovely house that sure did sunset from the deck very well. I think half my photos were of sunset each night and sitting out there with a cold beverage – bliss. It was in a non-touristy area and so interesting to watch Hawaiian life unfolding around us!

We drove around the island from our base in Kona to Hilo and the national park. Long day of driving but the vistas are incredible coming back in the interior. The park of course is amazing and the view behind Max and Charlotte has changed in the last few years as it used to be filled with lava which has now disappeared back underground with just puffs of smoke coming out now. The lava fields have dried up but you always have the sense that anything could happen underneath your feet.

We snorkeled (well Charlotte did and we watched) in the lovely rock pools and wandered on black sandy beaches.

One day we drove up the hills behind Kona and went to a great coffee farm. We were taken around in a 4 wheeler over some bumpy roads which was fun. We got to visit with the animals plus see the process of coffee growing and processing again. We’ve done this in Costa Rica and Vietnam so it’s interesting to compare. We also bought some great beans to take home.

Another day we drove out past the Kona airport and went to an interesting octopus farm. It’s run by scientists who are trying to figure out how to breed them in captivity. I think we are kind of glad they are not succeeding in some ways as these creatures are incredible. We spent a couple of hours learning about them and playing with many in their tanks.

Another great week in a lovely spot.

Big Island Flying Out

Hawaii: Oahu

We hit a wonderful sale on flights to Hawaii from Oakland, CA ($49 each way!!) so just had to go. I decided to spend a week in Oahu as we lived there for three years and my third son was born in Honolulu. But I wanted Max and Charlotte to also see the Big Island as it’s so different plus of course we needed to explore the volcanoes and national parks.

Our week on Oahu was spent staying in Kailua which is a bit separate from the hectic parts of Honolulu but an easy drive in. We loved the small town feel to it and met up with an amazing friend and her family. She was the person who mentored us to unschooling ideas waaaay back in the 90s. We got to watch her granddaughter ride in a show (you know Charlotte loved the horse experiences) and hang out for a bit as they were all camping at the beach park. Ohana (family) is so vital in Hawaii and it was lovely to be reminded of this.

We drove around the entire island and fell back in love with the east side and north shore. I love the rural and undeveloped feel to it and so many are holding onto that.

We also went to the Bishop Museum which I loved. My older two boys spent many hours there as we had membership for three years and went to so many classes and offerings. It was fun to go back and revisit the exhibits with new eyes.

Max has always loved sushi and ceviche so leaped onto poke of all kinds in Hawaii. Even the grocery stores carry multiple fresh offerings. Yum. We also had fun at Shirokiya Japan Village Walk in Ala Moana Center – right down in Waikiki. So many choices and so little time to eat!

Another extreme yum is Leonard’s Bakery and malasadas. We stopped at their food truck and bought a box and ate so many we were oozing sugar. I don’t even like doughnuts that much but these – oh my. These are Portuguese doughnuts so I was excited to be going to Portugal later in the year (update sadly did not find them in the Algarve)!


So many beaches, shaved ice, good food, shrines… Just a wonderful trip.

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